Limited impact of Thwaites Ice Shelf on future ice loss from Antarctica

Hilmar Gudmundsson*, Jowan Barnes, Daniel Goldberg, Mathieu Morlighem

*Corresponding author for this work

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Thwaites Ice Shelf (TWIS), the floating extension of Thwaites Glacier, West Antarctica, is changing rapidly and may completely disintegrate in the near future. Any buttressing that the ice shelf provides to the upstream grounded Thwaites glacier will then be lost. Previously, it has been argued that this could lead to onset of dynamical instability and the rapid demise of the entire glacier. Here we provide the first systematic quantitative assessment of how strongly the upstream ice is buttressed by TWIS and how its collapse affects future projections. By modeling the stresses acting along the current grounding line, we show that they deviate insignificantly from the stresses after ice shelf collapse. Using three ice-flow models, we furthermore model the transient evolution of Thwaites Glacier and find that a complete disintegration of the ice shelf will not substantially impact future mass loss over the next 50 years.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2023GL102880
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number11
Early online date31 May 2023
Publication statusPublished - 16 Jun 2023

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